The president of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association is calling on the province and its gas regulator to temporarily change its pricing approach.
It comes after the price at the pumps recently dropped 30 cents per litre in 10 days.
“We believe that the provincial government has to direct IRAC to take a more cautionary approach to retail price adjustments on a temporary basis until our lives get back to some semblance of normal,” Mike Hammoud, the association’s president, said Friday in an email to The Guardian.
“We have retailers who are losing as much as 22 cents on every litre of gasoline they sell.”
On March 6, the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) dropped the price of regular, self-serve unleaded gas by 1.5 cents, which set the new price range at the pumps to 109.7-110.9 cents per litre.
But four days later, on March 10, the price dropped by six cents and then plunged again on March 13 by seven cents. March 18 saw another drastic drop in price by 10 cents per litre. And then on Friday, March 20, there was a seven-cent drop.
“You get ups and downs throughout the year, and things usually even out. But these are unprecedented times, and we have an essential service – gasoline retailing – that is exposed to considerable financial risk.”
Friday's new price for gas was a throwback to prices consistently seen nearly two decades ago. According to Statistics Canada, the annual average price of regular, unleaded, self-serve gasoline ranged between 70.1 cents per litre in 2000 and 74 cents per litre in 2003. In 2004, the trend shifted with the annual average price rising to 84.1 cents, and then to 96.4 cents in 2005.
The price of furnace oil also dropped by five cents per litre on Friday and now sits at a maximum price of 66.7 per litre while diesel fuel decreased by five cents per litre and now costs between 92.5 and 93.6 cents per litre.
Prices at the pumps began tumbling when an oil pricing and production dispute broke out between Saudi Arabia and Russia days before the March 10 drop in local prices.
Hammoud is concerned the financial hit to smaller retailers, especially in rural areas, could force closures and affect the availability of gasoline in those communities.
“You get ups and downs throughout the year, and things usually even out,” said Hammoud.
“But these are unprecedented times, and we have an essential service – gasoline retailing – that is exposed to considerable financial risk.”
IRAC's next price adjustment is scheduled for March 27.